IOLA, Kansas — Wins rarely come easy inside the grueling Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) schedule.
After battling through a tough January littered with tough breaks and tight losses, the Cloud County Community College men's basketball team was rewarded for its efforts Thursday night as the T-Birds grinded out a 78-75 road win over Allen County Community College to snap a five-game skid.
"That was certainly a must-win for us. We had to find a way to get our confidence back," said Cloud County head coach Jordan Altman. "Allen County is a very good win for us. They have a talented front line and I thought we did a really good job slowing them down for the most part (Thursday). It was a team effort."
Cloud County (11-10 overall, 5-7 KJCCC) had seven different players contribute seven or more points, led by freshman forward Iyen Enaruna with a team-high 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Enaruna's biggest basket of the night came with 1:40 remaining when he finished off a pick-and-roll pass from freshman guard DJ Sims at the rim to give Cloud County a 74-71 lead.
"He realized late in the second half that they couldn't keep him away from the basket," Altman said of Enaruna. "He needed to get back to his comfort zone with his back to the basket and he scored some big points that picked everything up for us."
Allen County (12-8 overall, 4-7 KJCCC) made the T-Birds sweat as, down 75-71, Trez Hankins drilled a fall away 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that pulled the Red Devils back within one at 75-74.
"Alvin Thompson was right there defensively," Altman said. "I called and timeout and Alvin came to the bench and everybody was picking him up because he contested it and (Hankins) made a tough shot."
After a free throw on the other end made it a 76-74 lead for the T-Birds, they had the late bounce go their way, dodging a pair of late 3-point attempts from Allen County.
The Red Devils had a potential go-ahead 3-pointer from straight away bounce off the rim and out of bounds with three seconds remaining. After a pair of Sims' free throws made it a 78-75 lead for the T-Birds, Allen County had a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer from Petey Carroll rim in and out to seal the 78-75 final.
Joining Enaruna in double-figures Thursday was Thompson and fellow sophomore guard Jerome Kidd Jr. with 10 points apiece, Sims and fellow freshman guard Gabe Pieschl added nine pointss, and the duo of Adetomi Ayilara and Brayden Day followed with eight points.
Kidd Jr. shot an economical 4-of-5 from the field and the 10 points from Thompson on 5-of-10 shooting was a solid bounce-back after a tough matchup with Cowley last Saturday.
"Jerome has really come through for us the last couple of games and it was nice to see Alvin get going again," Altman said. "As a coach, seeing seven guys score eight or more points always makes you happy."
As a team, the T-Birds shot 46 percent (27-of-59) from the field and 20-of-27 (74 percent) at the free-throw line Thursday while limiting their turnovers to 15.
Defensively, Cloud County also turned in a solid performance as it held the Red Devils to 32 percent shooting (20-of-63) on the evening.
With the losing skid in the rearview mirror, the T-Birds will look to build off the victory when they turn around and host Independence Community College at 8 p.m. Saturday as part of Homecoming weekend.
"Part of the problem with losing sometimes is you point the finger at something the other team did or sometimes at yourself. We'd been pointing the finger at ourselves the last couple of games," Altman said. "Now we can get back to worrying about our opponents and try to take them our of their game instead of solely focusing on us getting back to our game."
The Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned prior to tip-off of the men's game, while at halftime Chad Myers, Kelli (SIlvey) Kuennen and Kellyn (Johnson) Taylor will be inducted as the 13th class of the Cloud County Athletics Hall of Fame.